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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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This article was contributed by Kay Reitberger

Sheboygan Daily Press - January 7, 1933

Block, John {Joseph}

Veteran Fighter Called Soldier Of "Misfortune"

John BLOCK (Written in pencil in parenthesis is "Joseph"), Resident of City Takes Greatest Pride In His Service For America.

A soldier of "misfortune" for nine years, Joseph BLOCK, 1424 Erie avenue, often reflects upon the days when he wore the uniform of the Hungarian Hussar, a prisoner of war, a Czecho Slovakian Legionaire and as a Japanese soldier.

And as a soldier of "fortune," he refers with pride to the four years that he served as a member of Company F, Wisconsin National Guard, Sheboygan, Wis.

His first nine years of soldiering were inspired largely by necessity - the last four, by choice.

He was a private while fighting in foreign wars and while defending Czecho-Slovakia against invasion by the Hungarians. He started as a private in the Wisconsin National Guard, but during the last three years was a sergeant.

"I never was more proud in my life than when I had the privilege of carrying the colors of the United States of America," he told a reporter who interviewed him about his experiences.

Imperialist - Anti-Imperialist

Mr. BLOCK voluntarily enlisted as a defender of imperialism but wound up in an army that was committed to the purpose of obstructing imperialism.

Uncertain as to the land of his birth, Mr. BLOCK has positive knowledge of the date he was born. His mother told him he was born on Oct. 27, 1897. He never learned the nationality of his parents. His father and mother were considered to be well-to-do. Prior to and after his birth, they traveled from place to place in various countries and provinces in Europe as the owners of a merry-go-round, and he thinks they were in Sweden when he came into the world.

Mr. BLOCK's parents settled in Schreckenstein (Rock of Horrors) in Bohemia during his early childhood. He attended school there for five years, after which he went to an academy at Aussig and started preparing himself for a career as a physician. He also attended an academy at Spiegelburg. He quit school when he was 15 years old and went to northern Germany near Kiel, where he learned the butcher trade.

Enlists With Austria

When Austria declared war on Serbia in 1914, young BLOCK, then 17 years old, decided to enter the service of his country. He was given the impression that the war would not be serious and would be of short duration, so he answered his country's call - both as a matter of patriotism and to avoid future compulsory service later on.

An a member of the Hungarian Hussars, he went to southern Hungary for training, and from there to the Russian border, remaining there and participating in numerous important battles until the Hussars were transferred in November, 1915, to the Italian front, where a shrapnel splinter struck him in the back of the neck and sent him to a hospital for about six weeks.

In August, 1916, the Hungarian forces were sent back to the Russian front, and while serving there, in October, 1916, Mr. BLOCK was buried in a shell cave-in. He and most of his comrades were rescued, but he suffered an eye injury for a long time afterward.

Made Prisoner Of War

The army remained on the Russian front until Feb. 3, 1917. Then is when the most exciting and most memorable thing in Mr. BLOCK's life occurred. He and other members of his patrol advanced too far in enemy territory, were captured and sent to a prison camp at Tashkent, province of Turkestan, Asiatic Russia.

After suffering the privations that only a prisoner of war understands, the prisoners of Tashkent were visited one day by an officer representing himself as an agent of the Czecho-Slovakian Legion. He invited all the prisoners to join the Legion, promising them the freedom of regular soldiers. Mr. BLOCK was one of those who enlisted. He was to be paid six rubles a day in addition to being supplied with proper food and clothing.

The Legion was moved from Tashkent to Omsk in Siberia, where they encountered the first bolshevik army resistance following the collapse of the Russian empire. They vanquished their foes and continued westward to Krasnoyarsk in south central Siberia. Here they were provided with new uniforms.

Mr. BLOCK said the Legion army remained in Krasnoyarsk five or six weeks and were there when the armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918.

Feared Destiny

Following the signing of the armistice, the prisoners who had joined the Legion began giving grave consideration of their future destiny. They had been enlisted in an enemy army, believed by them to have been supported jointly by the United States and by Great Britain.

While they were told they could not be taken to America or to England, they were constantly reassured that no harm would come to them when they returned to the country of their original enlistment.

They proceeded eastward over the Trans-Siberian railroad, having frequent brushes with the bolsheviks, going across Siberia and northern China to Vladivostok.

Get Japanese Uniforms

They spent ten days in Vladivostok, and while there they were outfitted with Japanese uniforms and other equipment. They passed in review before Japanese army officers, and to the stirring airs of a Japanese army band boarded a British transport ship for Vancouver, British Columbia, on Feb. 3, 1919.

The water trip was an unusually long and tedious one, the ship arriving in Vancouver in June. The soldiers disembarked at Vancouver and boarded railroad trains, which transported them across the southern part of Canada to Montreal. They embarked on a British steamer at Montreal, and went to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they were transferred to another steamer bound for Hamburg, Germany.

Landing in Hamburg on Nov. 16, 1919, the hybrid army was received by German soldiers and marines. They were ordered to lay down their arms before they would be admitted to German soil. They willingly obeyed, and were permitted to move toward Czecho-Slovakia.

They were stopped at the Czecho-Slovakian border until it was ascertained that there were no bolsheviks in the Legion. A delegation was sent to the war minister at Prague, and after a lengthy conference, it was decided to permit them to enter the country.

Mr. BLOCK obtained a furlough from the Czecho-Slovakian government and went home for a visit after which he continued serving in the army until April 31, 1922. During a part of that time, he helped guard the Czecho-Slovakian border along the Danube river against invasion by the Hungarians. While in this service, he was quartered at Pressburg.

Came Here In 1922

Mr. BLOCK returned home after receiving his discharge from the army remaining there until August 2, 1922, when he came to the United States. He came directly to Sheboygan, having corresponded with friends here before coming.

After coming to Sheboygan, Mr. BLOCK was employed at the GOTTSCHALK meat market on Michigan avenue for a time, working at the trade he had learned before his soldiery. Then he worked at the KOHLER company, later operating a meat market of his own on North Thirteenth street. He afterward disposed of his shop and returned to Kohler where he remained until 1931, when he obtained a job in the GUTSCH Products company, where he is now employed.

Enlists In Co. F

He enlisted in Company F, W. N. G. , in 1927, serving as a private one year and as a sergeant three years, under Captain E. A. HICKEY and John A. EHREN. During his National Guard service, he won a sharpshooters' medal at Camp Douglas, and also was awarded a medal for perfect attendance.

He was admitted to United States citizenship on Oct. 1, 1929, and proclaims his only known nationality as American. His brother, Rudolph, is a former member of the French Foreign Legion, and another brother, William, claims his nationality as Czecho-Slovakian because of his army service.

Mr. BLOCK was married on Sept. 25, 1926, to Mrs. Hermine FALLESCH.

{On the last page of this article, there is a picture. Above the picture it is labeled ADVENTURER. Below the picture it is labeled General Radola GAJDA.}

During the time that Joseph BLOCK, subject of an article in today's Press, served in the Czecho-Slovakian Legion after being taken as a prisoner in the World war, he was in the command of General Radola GAJDA, the most dazzling adventurer Czecho-Slovakia has ever produced.

Gajda was a Moravian peasant farmer's boy, but as he grew to young manhood he left the hay pitching for apprenticeship in a druggist's shop. When the war broke out, being a subject of the Austro-Hungarian empire, as was Mr. BLOCK, he was drafted for the army.

With hundreds of fellows, he arranged to desert the Austrian armies and fight on the side of the enemy. In the meantime, Private BLOCK had been captured, and after that he was requested to join the Legion under General GAJDA's command. After the war, (Czecho-Slovakion because of his - I think this is a mistake here K.R.) he was made chief of staff of the Czech army, but he was not satisfied. He became the idol of the newly organized Czech fascist party, but in 1927 was cast aside.

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